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Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)

April 10, 2014

[Album 302/1001]220px-AnthraxAmongTheLiving

When exploring the top marketing disasters in recent memory, Oldsmobile’s “It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” campaign often makes an appearance.

With increased competition from overseas car companies, GM decided to rebrand the Oldsmobile. The car model had been a favourite of an aging demographic; in an effort to boost sales, GM went after younger consumers.

Unfortunately, the chosen tagline didn’t appeal to either group: younger customers still thought of it as an ‘old’ person’s car (the model name couldn’t have helped) and the existing customer base felt alienated (who you callin’ old?!).

The car was eventually discontinued.

I’d argue appealing to new fans, while retaining old fans, is also one of the bigger challenges in the music industry.

One way to please both groups: find that perfect balance between aggressive and accessible, keep it heavy but with enough hooks. Easier said than done of course!

As Among The Living is my first full album venture into the Anthrax catalogue, I’m not sure if it’s a radical departure from their first two studio efforts. On album #3 at least, they walk the accessible/aggressive line nicely.

The title track, among my favourites on the record, is like a ‘how-to mix heaviness & hooks’ recipe in action:
– start melodically, with a deceptively slow tempo
– add one killer riff (at 0:16), build with guitarmonies & variations
– cue double kick! (at 1:32)

Thrash Metal’s “Big 4” (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer) each had big albums in ’86 or ’87, all deemed 1001 list-worthy. So far, I’ve only reviewed Master of Puppets but for me, Among the Living is on par.

After hearing the chant-along call-backs in Efilnikufesin, the acronym NFL now has a whole new meaning. And speaking of call-backs, I struggled not to sing the call & answer vocals from Team America: World Police when singer Joey Belladonna yelled “America!” during One World.

Imitation of Life sounds worlds apart from REM’s tune of the same name but when it comes to longevity, Anthrax has outlasted Michael Stipe & company. Anthrax studio album #11 is expected this summer and though the band lineup and sound has evolved over time, I don’t think many fans are pleading with them to retire.

As mentioned above, I may be a first-time Anthrax album listener, but I’m a long-time fan for two non-musical reasons:

1) This great appearance on the underrated 90s show Newsradio


2) The response to criticism of their band name during the Anthrax crisis of 2001:

Now there’s a lesson in successful rebranding: how could you not like a band named ‘A Basket Full of Puppies’?!

I was pleased to discover, in addition to a having a good sense of humour, these guys can play.

From → 1980s

  1. This made the 1001? Granted it’s an important thrash metal album but I would have figured Persistence of Time would have been the one. It is for me, anyways!

    • I’m guessing it’s because Reign of Blood/Master of Puppets/Peace Sells and this were all released around the same time – it made sense to include at least one of each from the big 4.

      From what I gather this was a ‘breakthrough’ one for Anthrax – the book generally has a bias towards that type of record.

      • It is a breakthrough in many regards, yes. Should you make it further through the Anthrax discography I’ll recommend Persistence of Time!

  2. Brilliant album, totally deserving of its place in the 1001!

  3. I am a “bit” familiar with Anthrax. LOVED “Got the Time” when it first came out, but sadly, not enough to procure the album. The hubs does have their albums, and we’ll listen to them on the road. I know the songs enough to detect that it’s an Anthrax song, but couldn’t tell you what song it is or what album it came from.

    • Though bonus marks for using the verb procure!

      • haha, I use it in the daily vernacular at work…guess I can’t leave it behind on my lunch hour!

        America – f yeah… (I sing this song weekly…it’s just so “feel good” especially when you follow it up with “Wal-Mart! F yeah!”

      • When I heard the Anthrax song with ‘america’ I had to break out the Team America Soundtrack – so many good songs. Personal favourite = Pearl Harbour sucked…and I miss you!

      • Good call on News Radio, btw. I watched that sucker right to the end. So funny. I think it’s on Netflix too. Deserves a rewatch…

  4. Ha ha, I never thought to sing the “f*** yeah” backing vocal before, but now that I’ve read this, its all I can think about.

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